Warning: This contains spoilers for Episode 6 of Star Trek: Discovery Season 2. Not caught up? See our spoiler-free review of Season 1’s opening episodes here.
“He who learns must suffer,” says Burnham, as Episode 6 of Discovery Season 2 comes to a close, quoting Ancient Greek poet Aeschylus – and, while that could be pertinent to every protagonist in every work of dramatic fiction, boy, is it true for Saru. Once again proving to be the Spock of Star Trek: Discovery – he’s loved by all viewers, even those who don’t like Discovery – putting Saru centre-stage makes for another quintessentially Trek episode. Building on the revelation from Episode 4 that the physiological change known as vahar’ai isn’t a precursor to death, but a lie promulgated by their dastardly overlords the Ba’ul, this episode sees Saru get to save his entire species and learn the full truth. And, boy, did Aeschylus ever get it right about that suffering.
“What is a Kelpien without fear?” Saru muses, although he seems sure he is living his true life. This insight leads him to offer the reincarnated Hugh – this episode’s B-story – advice: “Perhaps you’re feeling less like you were and more like you were meant to be.” Hugh, as we’ll most likely find out in future episodes, doesn’t seem convinced. As the Red Angel diverts Discovery to Saru’s homeworld, Kaminar, we’re treated to the newly assertive Saru. Sitting in the Captain’s chair, and not immediately acquiescing it to Pike when he comes on the bridge, is a tiny but brilliant moment – and a sign of what is to come. Obedience as well as deference seems to have left Saru, as he steps to Pike and disobeys orders throughout the episode.
Pertinently to Michael’s ongoing story, it is she who supports his acts of rebellion and ensures he accompanies her down to the planet’s surface. Saru’s reunion with his sister, Siranna, after 18 years away with Starfleet, is touching, and her journey from ignorance to wide-eyed wonder – and anger – is fantastically written.
The villainous Ba’ul are dismissed as “isolationists” by Pike, which, considering they’re also guilty of racial supremacy, is surely more cheeky Trump voter-baiting. But matters are slightly more complicated (Trek has always veered away from simplistic good vs. evil scenarios) with the knowledge from the Sphere, captured in the previous episode, informing us that 2,000 years ago, the Kelpiens all but wiped out the Ba’ul – and, in retaliation, the Ba’ul enslaved the Kelpiens and began culling them as they entered vahar’ai.
All sympathy is soon lost, though, when the Ba’ul fire up their planet-wide network of watchtowers to exterminate every Kelpien. Genocide is definitely a no-no for Starfleet, yet it’s not Discovery that saves them, but the Red Angel. Appearing to Saru, through his superior eyesight we learn that the entity is some sort of humanoid wearing a mechanised suit – the internet is already awash with theories as to whether this is, in fact, Michael, Saru or Spock himself.
Talking of ol’ pointy ears, his failure to make an appearance doesn’t mar this episode because the writers wisely decide not to inflict another dreary tease on us. But we know he’s on his way – and with a beard.
An indication of how Michael might aid her fugitive foster brother comes when Saru is about to beam himself over to the Ba’ul in an effort to save his village. Michael has her phaser trained on him, but he knows she sympathises with his plight. “Would you not do the same for your brother?” he asks her. And she lowers her weapon.
So, as another fantastic episode draws to a close, we’re left with the knowledge that the pieces are being moved into position for an explosive second half of the season (surely Spock will appear next episode?). Michael’s loyalty to Spock, despite the fact he currently hates her, will bring her into conflict, not just with Starfleet, but with the murky minions of Section 31 – TyVoq and Georgiou, in particular. With Aeschylus in mind, Michael is on course for a whole lot of learning…
Star Trek: Discovery is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription. New episodes of Season 2 arrive weekly on Fridays, within 24 hours of their US release.